Drawing The Pain: Sketch Therapy For C. Africa's War-torn Children

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Drawing the pain: Sketch therapy for C. Africa's war-torn children

Kaga Bandoro, Central African Republic, June 14 (AFP/APP) :The scratching of crayons on paper fills the air as the children at Lazare camp in war-ravaged Central African Republic draw scenes from daily life.

They draw armed men. Armoured vehicles. And they use red. Lots of red.

In a makeshift tent, glasses perched on her nose and her feet in the dust, psychologist Mamie Nouria Meniko pores over the creations -- an indicator of the children's mental health, and a much-needed outlet.

"Their problem is that they suffer daily exposure to violence," she says.

The 43-year-old Congolese runs a Red Cross programme at the displaced people's camp to identify and help kids suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"Drawing helps children to express what they are feeling. It shows what children cannot say out loud," Nouria Meniko says.

"Sometimes, some of them start crying as soon as they start drawing." - 'Vicious circle' - Professor Jean-Chrysostome Gody, the head doctor at Bangui's paediatric hospital, says mental problems linked to conflict are widespread in a country that has been gripped by violence since 2003.

But the issue is also taboo.

"It's a real public-health problem," Gody says. "Untreated trauma can cause depression and even lead to violence -- it fuels the vicious circle." Children such as Florine and Herve who have witnessed extreme violence have a lifelong burden, adds Nouria Meniko.

"We can't wipe out anything out," the psychologist says with a sigh. "What we try to do is to help them live with the trauma."str-sba/ri/mlr/rlp

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